By Angie Grenz

What is summer without the beautiful sweet mess of an ice cream cone? Even the lactose-sensitive will suffer a stomachache on occasion for this quintessential homage to summer.

As summer is heating up, the diligent staffers here at NOCO Style felt duty-bound to try all the ice cream vendors we could in Northern Colorado to point you in the right direction for your next ice-cold sweet confection.

But where did it all start? One source says the first ice-cream-like treat was eaten in China in 618-97 AD, composed of buffalo milk, flour and camphor. And Alexander the Great was known to crunch on a snow and ice concoction flavored with honey and nectar.

Another source says that “cream ice” regularly made its way to the table of Charles I in the 17th Century. In 1553, France was further introduced to a similar frozen dessert by the Italian Catherine de Medici when she became wife of Henry II of France.

However, it wasn’t until around 1660 that ice cream was available to the general public, says the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). It was the Sicilian Procopio who blended milk, cream, butter and eggs at Café Procope in Paris.

Whatever the journey that took ice cream from their kitchens to our mouths, we are eternally grateful for the invention. And with most Americans managing to consume an average of 23 pounds of ice cream each year, according to the IDFA, we can pretty much consider ourselves experts.

But what makes the best ice cream? It is a blend of technique and ingredient. Proper chilling, the right amount of butterfat, the proper sweetener—all factor into the best bite of ice-cold perfection. That and your flavor preference: Are you a die-hard vanilla fan?

Chocolate lover? Need mix-ins? Love toppings? Want unique or unusual flavors?

What about ice cream verses gelato? The difference is that ice cream contains more cream than milk, along with eggs. Gelato has a greater proportion of whole milk, and usually does not contain any eggs. With less cream, gelato may be a little easier on lactose-sensitive stomachs than ice cream; it also has less fat and calories. However, gelato can be a little meltier than ice cream. Both are what summers are made of in Colorado.

Fortunately, we have a wealth of ice cream spots to give us both the sweet treat we crave and the summer vibes we love (after all, aesthetics and location are important during the actual consumption of said ice cream).

Here are our top choices in Northern Colorado:

WALRUS ICE CREAM

If you love tradition, with a funky twist, Walrus Ice Cream is the most iconic spot for a cone in all of Northern Colorado, and the first to locate in Downtown Fort Collins. Since 1987, patrons have been lined up out the door for a cone, delighting in the 29 always changing selections available.

BEN & JERRY’S

If you like it chunky, Ben & Jerry’s in Fort Collins is your place. Lee Swanson and his wife Ann opened the franchise in 1996, bringing the second ice cream shop to Downtown. Additionally, it sits in Old Town Square, the epicenter for many of Downtown’s events and arguably the best people watching. Non-dairy choices are available.

OLD TOWN CHURN

The new kid on the block in Downtown Fort Collins is Old Town Churn. The walk-up kiosk at The Exchange is well situated for families. Play lawn games, grab dinner and end with a cone. The flavors change regularly, and the Salted Oreo Cookie is inspired. Vegan choices are available as well.

COLORADO COFFEE COMPANY

This writer’s new favorite is found at Colorado Coffee Company at The Foundry in Downtown Loveland. They carry six flavors from Denver-based God Save The Cream gelato, including Unicorn Poop, a cotton-candy flavor, and Sicilian Pistachio, which has an amazing flavor reminiscent of the cones enjoyed on last year’s holiday in Italy. Worth every calorie!

While Downtown Fort Collins has some of the best-known ice cream shops in Northern Colorado, there are plenty in surrounding towns. Conehead Ice Cream in Berthoud, Gelato & Amore in Fort Collins near City Park, and Pacuigo Gelato Café at Loveland’s Centerra area are all well-loved.

Ashley Randolph, sales and marketing representative, and Tonja Randolph, publisher, enjoy a gelato cone of Dirty Oreo at Loveland’s Colorado Coffee Company.

Suzanne Brasignton, sales representative, and sons Wilhem and Destin, enjoy ice cream sandwiches and a shake from Old Town Churn.